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Lawmakers’ Approval of Nuclear Energy Spending Shows Disregard for Taxpayers and Environment

July 15, 2003

Lawmakers’ Approval of Nuclear Energy Spending Shows Disregard for Taxpayers and Environment


Statement of Wenonah Hauter, Director, Public Citizen’s Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program, on Committee Approval of Nuclear Programs in Energy and Water Development Bill

With projections of record federal deficits making headlines across the country, the House Appropriations Committee nevertheless today approved excessive spending for nuclear energy programs, showing a concerning disregard for taxpayers and the environment.

Topping the list of nuclear energy boondoggles in this costly bill is $765 million for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump – $174 million more than the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) request and a whopping 67 percent increase over current spending levels. Throwing unbudgeted money at this project is particularly irresponsible given the hundreds of unresolved questions regarding its scientific soundness. This project demands strict congressional oversight and budget scrutiny – a concept apparently lost on House appropriators.

The bill also directs the DOE to designate rail as the preferred mode of transporting nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain. While the bill prohibits nuclear waste shipments through Las Vegas, other major metropolitan areas slated to become nuclear waste thoroughfares include Chicago, Atlanta and St. Louis. According to the government, this plan also could involve up to 3,000 barge shipments carrying deadly waste on rivers, lakes and coastal waterways from 17 reactors that lack direct access to rail lines.

It’s hard to imagine how the disastrous Yucca Mountain project could be made worse, but report language approved with the bill does just that by directing the DOE to plan for “early acceptance” of nuclear waste at an aboveground storage facility even before the proposed repository has been built. Lawmakers should oppose any efforts to allow for interim storage of nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain.

Separately, the bill commits $268 million to nuclear energy programs, funding projects aimed at promoting and subsidizing the construction of new nuclear reactors. This corporate welfare bill is a lucrative giveaway to nuclear industry interests at the expense of environmentally and fiscally responsible energy policies. When the measure is brought before the full House, lawmakers should reorient this spending package with a view to promoting safe, clean and affordable energy.